How to protect and inspire your company from unexpected changes
Our world has changed more rapidly and unexpectedly than ever before these past several months. Nothing has been safe. Businesses have and continue to struggle with how to navigate the obligatory adjustments and unforeseen challenges the pandemic has presented. We’ve all been forced to improve our change management skills; it has become crucial on an elevated level. The ability to maneuver around obstacles and through transitions, and do it well, is essential.
When a company is facing change in any capacity, change management is how company leaders manage the processes, systems, structures, overall morale, and employee responsibilities during a time of transition. This is a skillset we know well at Voltage Control. We spend our days helping people embrace, face, and transition through changes. Whether your company is struggling to make sense of required changes or you’re thriving and embracing an innovative transition, we want to share some of our change management strategies with you so that you can be successful in these uncertain times.
When Change Comes Knocking
First and foremost, a carefully constructed change management plan is a crucial base-level strategy to stifle fear and prepare your company to adequately navigate change. Planning for change eliminates unwelcome surprises; you have a recipe to fall back on and plug into. Weave the following six change management strategy principles into your customized plan:
1. Pinpoint the problem
The first and most important thing to do when change–especially unexpected change–arises is to clearly identify it, why and how it happened, and what the solution is to solve it. You must fully know and understand the problem before you can adequately fix it.
2. Integrate culture to drive new direction
Company culture is the backbone of every work environment and team dynamic. It is the script for how employees interact with one another, how they know what to expect, and how they should perform. Change can disrupt the standard workflow and social status quo. It is critical to keep culture top-of-mind during times of change so that you are not met with resistance and so that employees stay connected to one another.
3. Unify top-level leadership
All links of the chain must be on the same page in order to survive change. Upper-level executives and leaders need to act congruently and share the same information throughout the company on all levels. A united front is the strongest defense against falling to the challenges of change.
4. Engage every level
The ripple effect of change is felt on some level throughout the entire company. So include everyone in the conversation to unify and confront the problem together. Involve mid-level employees as soon as possible by offering a safe space for everyone to share their concerns, including any logistical or technical issues they might see. Managers and leaders can also use this as an opportunity to evaluate the effects the change will have on their teams and the company at large.
5. Incorporate change agents
Change agents help to drive the challenging task of getting all employees on board. They are any informal leaders who can help organizational leaders drive and champion change. Whether they are internal leaders or stakeholders, change agents should be intentionally chosen. They will serve as a coalition to help spread the unified message, get their teams integrated, and put people at ease.
6. Identify critical behaviors
Even with the former five principles in place, change won’t happen overnight. Provide employees with defined critical behaviors to follow within the first couple of days that the change occurs. Provide them with the “what”, “why”, and “how” so that they fully understand the dynamics of the change and introduce any new practices necessary for a smooth transition. Old patterns are hard to break. Make sure to provide all employees with adequate training and informational meetings to communicate details of the change and new expectations.
Break Barriers with Liberating Structures
A change management plan will help guide you through the dark uncertainty of change. Along the way, incorporate additional change management strategies to break up tensions and spark creativity–both crucial components of maintaining company culture and morale.
One of our favorite ways to do this is to use Liberating Structures during meetings and workshops. This facilitation framework consists of 33 microstructures designed to build trust and enhance cooperation and communication between teammates. Participation is the name of the game with Liberating Structures. They are built around improving coordination by including and unleashing all participants; a great way to shake things up in times of tension.
Each microstructure is easy to learn and implement. Try incorporating one, or several, of the following Liberating Strategies to connect your team and ideate solutions:
1. Open Space
This activity helps to release people’s inherent creativity, leadership, and the ability to self-organize. It guides groups small and large to co-create agendas and address issues that are important to them. The release of central control empowers people to quickly take responsibility for solving problems and taking action. The structure ensures total inclusion and provides a space for all concerns and voices to be heard.
Groups of any size focus on and share their success stories rather than problems. Collectively, the group generates a list of orders that are necessary for its overall success. Inclusivity and open and honest conversations help to highlight the importance of investing in social supports. Overall, sharing successes elevates the energy in the room.
This activity helps structure group discussion and train participants to strike an important balance between talking and listening. Attendees break into small groups and one person acts as the Host. They monitor seven agreements that must be met at all times, including respecting one another and suspending judgment as much as possible. If anyone in the group disrupts an agreement, the Host steps in. Groups engage in four rounds of timed conversation–each with clearly defined prompts and expectations–where participants equally share their thoughts and listen to others. The activity helps to foster calm and profound conversations.
Make space for innovation by inviting in creative destruction. This activity liberates options for renewal by focusing on identifying what the group must stop doing in order to achieve its goals. The group makes a list of all the ways it can achieve the worst result possible as it relates to their deepest goals. This airs out all of the worst-case scenarios and gives the group a chance to clearly analyze them and reflect on if they are acting them out in any way. Then, the group goes through the list and assigns counter action items to each scenario as to not create the undesired results.
Change is inevitable. But we have the power to brace it with more grace and ease and use it to our advantage when we arm ourselves with change management strategies.
“Change is inevitable. Growth is optional.” -John Maxwell
Need a facilitator?
Voltage Control facilitates design thinking workshops, innovation sessions, and Design Sprints. Please reach out at firstname.lastname@example.org for a consultation.